For Friday the 13th, the weather promised to be the best we’d had all week with the wind taking a break and temperatures rising, perfect conditions for the expedition Rebecca organized for Matt and I to join her on a hunt for the Hoary Elfin and the Western Green Hairstreak. Following the advice in Steven Cary’s “Butterfly Landscapes of New Mexico,” we left early in the morning for Fenton Lake in the Jemez Mountains and a long day of butterflies and birding in a loop through the Jemez to Bandelier National Monument.
At Fenton Lake, we first spotted an Osprey standing on a stump at one end of the lake, and later spied it’s nest at the top of a tall pine. I got a picture of it flying over us carrying what appears to be lunch.
Overall, it was a pretty good day for birds, seeing my first Western Tanager of the season, a Mountain Bluebird, two Hepatic Tanagers, Red Crossbills (life bird for me!), several warblers, and a large variety of other birds (most of which Matt was first to spot and would meticulously add to the day’s list that would eventually total 61 species).
One of the first butterflies we saw at Fenton Lake was this male Black Swallowtail.
Our goal for Fenton Lake, however, was the Hoary Elfin, a butterfly Cary’s book suggested could be found in ‘pine savannahs’ in the area near kinnikinnick (bearberry) plants – neither of which we saw at the lake itself. Continuing on our drive, however, Matt noticed a patch of bearberry just across the road from the Fenton Hill Observatory, and within seconds spotted the target of our quest!
While we were looking around there, I also saw what I think is probably a Rocky Mountain Duskywing.
Flush with elfin success, we continued on toward Bandelier, stopping at the Las Conchas Campground area for lunch in a delightfully shady spot along the river, and spotting a few more butterflies. A good one that hung around long enough for a few pictures this time was the Red Admiral I’d seen fleetingly a few weeks ago,
and which stayed around long enough for me to switch to my macro lens.
Last week, I got a picture of the upper side of a Silver-spotted Skipper – good picture, but it didn’t show the silver spot on the under side. So this time, I got a picture of one from the side that shows it.
Moving along, Rebecca next took us to Burnt Mesa just inside Bandelier National Monument to look for the Western Green Hairstreak, which was supposed to be there foraging on Fendler Bush. It was pretty dry there, and we didn’t see any in bloom quite yet, but on one low shrubby plant, Matt finally spotted a single Hairstreak that we got to look at for about a minute before it disappeared for good.
I’m not sure if that low shrub was Fendler Bush, which usually has a tall columnar shape and large distinctive four-lobed flowers like the one that was blooming in Domingo Baca in the Sandia’s last week.
Rebecca and Matt spent quite some time observing an unusual Duskywing without reaching a definite conclusion on its identification. I’m, of course, too much of a newbie to contribute to that discussion, but did get a pretty good picture of the subject.
We ended the day with a great late afternoon walk in the shady woods of Frijoles Canyon in Bandelier, where we were treated to quite a few good birds including a huge mixed flock of pine siskins, red crossbills, black-headed grosbeaks and probably a few others swarming around a tall pollinating cottonwood.